1. John Carlo
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    John Carlo Active Member

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    novel brainstorming questions

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by John Carlo, Oct 9, 2009.

    Hi all,
    I'm working on my first novel. It's still in outline mode. It's basically a fantasy. Not dungeons and dragons fantasy, but it does involve a parallel universe of sorts and there will be lots of strange imagery and characters. That being said, I'm having trouble deciding if I should make it first person or third person. I have only written short stories, and I almost always write in a first person confessional type voice. I'm not convinced of doing that at a novel length piece. I feel I might run into problems. What is a good way to decide this? If any. Also, in the first chapter, I need to conceal the viewpoint's name for a pretty significant time. What is a good way of doing this in a very natural and organic way. I hate saying "him", "he", and the like a million times. It gets really annoying, and obvious to the reader you're not giving the name on purpose. In first person, this is pretty easy. No one says their own name too much in a conversation, but like I said, I'm not convinced first person is the way to go (though that is my comfort zone). So is there a slick way to not give out the name for your main character in third person for a few pages?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    To begin with, third person is generally a better choice. You can get just as close to your main character with third person limited, but when you decide to take an excursion to a different perspective, it is less disruptive to the flow and to the main character viewpoint.

    As for hiding the main character's name, if you can't do it smoothly , don't try it. What I would do in that case is really no different than how I would normally handle third person. I wouldn' set my POV to look AT the character most of the time. Instead I would set my POV to see, feel, and hear what your character sees, feels, and hears, almost like a telepathic imp parked on his shoulder.

    Alternately, you could begin from the point of view of a stranger meeting him for the first time, or tracking him.

    Maybe your character is being cautious in a new region, and using an alias instead of the true name you reveal later. Or like Gandalf/Mithrandir/Olorin, he is known by different names to different people.

    The possibilities are truly endless.
     
  3. Pallas
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    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

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    As Cogito said, describing the interaction of the environment with the subject is a useful technique to hide identity. Also have you decided on preset or past tense 3rd person?
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I would NEVER recommend present tense as a narrative choice. That isn't to say it is impossible, but it is a severe handicap to good writing. For one thing, it makes it far more difficult to effectively modulate pace.

    For an example of a very experienced writer falling flat with present tense, read Patricia Cornwell's The Last Precinct. She tried to use it to bring the reader closer to the main character's emotional journey after nearly being murdered by a psychopath, but everyone I know who has read the book found the writing style unpleasant to read.
     
  5. Pallas
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    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends on the genre I suppose, I find present tense lively and involves me more in the unfolding story. It takes skill though.
     
  6. John Carlo
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    John Carlo Active Member

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    Great ideas. This will actually work well, I think. It opens with him in a strange an unfamiliar land, so I think I can pull off third person, conceal the name, and just go with the environment and surroundings (without mentioning "he" a million times). As far as present or past tense, I haven't decided. I imagine past tense is the easier route, is it not? I can't really put together a present tense third person voice in my mind. How would that even work if the narrator is telling the story? First person, that's pretty easy. This is why I was, and still am, contemplating using the first person POV, because it solves a lot of little problems. However, I fear it will create more problems than it will solve. I think, I'm leaning towards past tense, third person, limited. Pretty close to first person flexibility, and will allow me to do a whole lot more than I'm probably even thinking about. I'll play around with it.
     
  7. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    The way I decide what POV to use is by actually writing parts of the story in a few different styles to see what works best. One of them might stick out to you as the best choice for your story. If none really seems like the best choice, I'd go with third-person limited, past tense.

    I found that my current story simply does not work well in third person, for the simple fact that I can't get into it that way. I've never had a problem with third person before, but for some reason it just didn't feel right this time. Switching to first person solved that problem in a heartbeat. But be advised: first person involves more than simply replacing "he/she" with "I." The narrator IS the character, and so the narration must have a personality. So essentially, your POV character will be "talking" to us for the entire story, or at least for as long as he's the POV character.

    As for hiding the character's name in third person, you could come up with a nickname for him based on how he behaves, dresses, etc. For instance, if one of his eyes twitches frequently, you could call him Twitch. But if hiding his name isn't absolutely essential, I'd say just get it out there and avoid that problem altogether.
     
  8. Pallas
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    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

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    The classic epics are in 3rd person present tense, and they are some of my favorite works.
    Again, it depends on genre. It is good to write outside your comfort zone, but be careful, things can become forced and unnatural. Good luck in this endeavor.
     
  9. AmandaC
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    I love withholding information when I'm writing. I like to make the reader wonder. So yes, I think you can withhold your character's name a while, I've done it. You have to get creative and avoid it until you're ready.

    Instead of saying "She woke to the sound of sirens and decided to investigate." you could say, "There were sirens blaring from the street. Sleep no longer being an option, she decided to roll out of bed."

    Play with it.
     

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